Ottolengshi Roasted Butternut Squash and Red Onion with Tahini and Za’atar

I couldn’t help it… another Ottolenghi recipe.  And another vegetarian recipe!  Maybe I’m losing my meaty edge?

The other day I was having two of my best girls over for a little dinner, a lot of wine (4 bottles, 3 girls) and all manner of storytelling before a night out on the town in Chicago.  I was feeling especially inspired and creative which meant that I spent a few days trying to come up with a great menu.  Given my current obsession with Middle Eastern flavours I was pretty hellbent on coming up with an Ottolenghi-based menu.  A few months back I needed to make an impressive meal for someone and Ottolenghi served me well… so why not make the best for my girls? I also wanted to use some of the stuff in my fridge, hence my desire to use up this butternut squash that I had acquired while visiting a pumpkin patch a week or two earlier.

I came across this recipe in Jerusalem and had a feeling that it would be a winner.  Roasted squash is one of my fave vegetables, and who doesn’t like slow roasted red onions?  They just take on this sweetest that is so appealing.  The whole thing is then topped with a garlicky tahini dressing and finished with pine nuts and za’atar.

For the uninitiated za’atar is a Middle Eastern spice mix.  It’s usually made with dried herbs, sesame seeds, sumac and salt.  It obviously has an herby taste but also a bit of a nuttiness and a hint of something citrusy (probably from the sumac).  Basically, it just adds an extra bit of a kick to the dish.

This is one of those side dishes that is really easy to come together but ends up being really impressive.  The squash requires no peeling.  I just scrubbed all of the farm off of it and sliced it up.  You roast the whole thing long enough that the skin is super soft and edible.  Extra fiber y’all!  The onions are roughly chopped so that is no work at all.  Then there’s just something about the contrast of the brilliant orange and deep purple that looks stunning on the plate.  I was supposed to sprinkle parsley on top but I kind of forgot and then when I remembered I didn’t feel like whipping out my freshly washed cutting board.

This side dish is obviously on the heavier side and could probably even serve as a main dish.  I’d eat it with couscous (starch on starch on starch) and maybe a salad or something.  I also ate some cold the next day (obviously while standing in front of my fridge while wearing pyjamas. side note: just learned that spelling pyjamas with a “y” is the British way… who knew?) and it was still delish.



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